The patient journeys of children and adolescents with depression: A study of electronic health records

Alice Wickersham, Juliette Westbrook, Craig Colling, Johnny Downs, Risha Govind, Daisy Kornblum, Jonathan Lewis, Tamsin Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In England, children and adolescents with depression can seek treatment from specialist mental health services. We know little about how they journey through these services, or whether healthcare providers collect sufficient data to accurately appraise this. We aimed to summarise the child and adolescent depression pathway for two healthcare providers. This cohort study used de-identified electronic health records extracted from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM). We identified referrals between 2015 and 2019 during which the referred patient received their first depression diagnosis aged < 18 years. We described patient demographic and clinical characteristics, and features of the referral. In total, n = 296 (CPFT) and n = 2502 (SLaM) patients had a referral which met eligibility criteria. In both sites, patients were more frequently female (CPFT 79.3%; SLaM 69.3%) and White ethnicity (CPFT 88.9%; SLaM 57.9%) as compared to respective population estimates for the Trusts' catchment areas. Patients typically received their first depression diagnosis during adolescence (median ages 16 in CPFT and 15 in SLaM). The most common comorbidity was anxiety disorder. Referrals were usually routine, to community teams specialising in the child age group. Commonly mentioned interventions included antidepressant medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, and dialectical behaviour therapy. However, pathways varied within and between sites, and the quality and consistency of some data was poor. These findings provide an overview of service pathways experienced by children and adolescents with depression, but also highlight that pathways can vary according to individual need and healthcare provider. More systematic collection of some data, and standardisation in record systems used by different providers, would be beneficial.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 May 2023
Externally publishedYes


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